The idea that cow’s milk is an essential component of the diet for young children is one of the biggest nutritional myths. Decades of marketing by the dairy industry has convinced most parents in the U.S. that milk and cheese are indispensible for childhood health, but this is simply not true. Cow’s milk was designed by nature to be the perfect food for baby cows – not for human children.
Since allergy to cow’s milk has been postulated to cause of chronic constipation in children, a gastroenterology research team in Spain evaluated a cow’s milk-free (CM-free) diet as a therapeutic measure for this condition. Sixty-nine children suffering from chronic constipation underwent alternating periods of a CM-free diet followed by reintroduction of cow’s milk. During the first CM-free phase, 51% of the children showed improvements in their symptoms. After cow’s milk was reintroduced, 39% of children developed constipation and then improved during the second CM-free phase. The improved symptoms were not the simple result of a cow’s milk allergy in the children who were ‘responders’ to the CM-free diet – there is some other mechanism at work, which is yet to be discovered.1
As discussed in Disease Proof Your Child, several adverse health effects in children have been attributed to dairy products:
- There is a strong correlation between early exposure to cow’s milk and type 1 diabetes in children.2-8
- Early (12 months of age) dairy consumption is also associated with excess body fat in children.9
- Milk consumption in teenagers is associated with acne.10-12
- Childhood diets rich in dairy products are associated with cancer in adulthood.13
- Additional conditions associated with cow’s milk consumption include allergies, Crohn’s disease, ear infections, heart attack, multiple sclerosis, and prostate cancer.14
These are serious concerns, especially when you consider the huge amount of dairy products that some children consume, regardless of whether a child is a ‘responder’ with respect to the digestive complaints associated with cow’s milk. Dairy foods may supply needed calcium in those not eating any vegetables, but when you use less dairy and more high-calcium plant foods, you get lots of anti-cancer nutrients in the bargain. The modest micronutrient content in dairy can’t compare to vegetables and is vastly outweighed by its calorie content and associated health risks. Less animal source products and more vegetables is the secret to an anti-cancer lifestyle, and not merely to resolve constipation.
1. Irastorza, I., et al., Cow's-milk-free diet as a therapeutic option in childhood chronic constipation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2010. 51(2): p. 171-6.
2. Soltesz, G., Worldwide childhood type 1 diabetes epidemiology. Endocrinol Nutr, 2009. 56 Suppl 4: p. 53-5.
3. Dahl-Jorgensen, K., G. Joner, and K.F. Hanssen, Relationship between cows' milk consumption and incidence of IDDM in childhood. Diabetes Care, 1991. 14(11): p. 1081-3.
4. Savilahti, E., et al., Increased levels of cow's milk and beta-lactoglobulin antibodies in young children with newly diagnosed IDDM. The Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetes Care, 1993. 16(7): p. 984-9.
5. Virtanen, S.M., et al., Diet, cow's milk protein antibodies and the risk of IDDM in Finnish children. Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetologia, 1994. 37(4): p. 381-7.
6. Kostraba, J.N., et al., Early exposure to cow's milk and solid foods in infancy, genetic predisposition, and risk of IDDM. Diabetes, 1993. 42(2): p. 288-95.
7. Gerstein, H.C., Cow's milk exposure and type I diabetes mellitus. A critical overview of the clinical literature. Diabetes Care, 1994. 17(1): p. 13-9.
8. Gerstein, H.C. and J. VanderMeulen, The relationship between cow's milk exposure and type 1 diabetes. Diabet Med, 1996. 13(1): p. 23-9.
9. Gunther, A.L., et al., Early protein intake and later obesity risk: which protein sources at which time points throughout infancy and childhood are important for body mass index and body fat percentage at 7 y of age? Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(6): p. 1765-72.
10. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2008. 58(5): p. 787-93.
11. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J, 2006. 12(4): p. 1.
12. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2005. 52(2): p. 207-14.
13. van der Pols, J.C., et al., Childhood dairy intake and adult cancer risk: 65-y follow-up of the Boyd Orr cohort. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(6): p. 1722-9.
14. Fuhrman, J., Disease Proof Your Child. 2005, New York: St. Martin's Griffin.